Skandinaviska Institutet

Thea, Ohio

Ålder på barnen: 9 and 12 years
Har varit i USA i: 2 (soon 3) months

What were your reasons for applying as an au pair?
At the end of my second year at my previous school I started to realize that I did not want to become a banker or a judge, which made it quite hard since that was the programme I was studying. So, I started to think about what I do want and what I do like doing and it came to me; people, traveling, seeing different cultures, all of which I have not been much part of before. Yes, I have gone on family vacations and I have also studied the same boring facts about the medieval times as you have but that is not enough for me. I wanted to see something else – see more. I started looking up different volunteer organisations, but those only lasted a few weeks. In a few weeks I would not know what I wanted to know, or see what I wanted to see, or even know what I want to do in life. That is when I heard about the au pair programme and I started very early applying, the summer before my third (and last) year of school. It gave me time to think about the experience and work to get the money to go. Ladies and, well, ladies, that is how my big adventure started!

Tell us about your host family:
Where to start? I am extremely lucky to have gotten such an amazing host family, who bring me to their after-school activities and who makes sure that I am fine – every step of the way. During the year you will meet a lot of au pairs who might not be as lucky as you are, and some might even have it better than you, but don’t let that discourage you. It is weird living in some stranger’s home, practically raising their kids but it will also be incredible. You will learn so much and see so much, the whole experience will strengthen you as a person. My family helps me be more independent, they help me learn more about life and most importantly they show me that love is not always connected by blood. I love my host kids, my host parents, my home, my new friends and the city I live in – and so will you!

Describe the area you live in:
When I first thought about going as an au pair I imagined living in one of the big cities, San Francisco, Miami, New York, but no, I ended up in Cincinnati, Ohio. At first, I thought that Cincinnati is a place no one has ever heard of, there will probably be nothing there to do, but then I thought screw it! I have a great family waiting for me and they will show me around. They sure did. There are a lot of things you can do here, almost as much as in one of those big cities, only Cincinnati lacks the tourist, the constant traffic and The Statue of Liberty. Here I can get around with my car any time to any place I want, and it is great!

What does a typical day look like?
I normally wake up around 6.15am and I start my day by doing some breakfast and the kids lunchboxes. Then I wake up my oldest host kid, who I need to help in the mornings because of his disability, then I drive him to school. When I get back I help my youngest host kid on the bus. I end everyday by 8 or 9am and then I have my free time until 2.30 or 3.30pm when I have to pick up my oldest host kid from school and meet the youngest by the bus. They share a prepared snack together and then they do their homework for the day, which I need to help them with. The parents come home around 5 or 6pm, sometimes later. We always share a meal together during the evenings.

On my free time I go shopping, I study, I take care of the laundry, I meet with friends, I go to the gym or I just have a nice relaxing day. Sometimes I even do small trips to downtown or to a museum.

What do/did or are you planning to study and why did or will you choose the course?
I will start the APIA class on the 2th of April. I have been checking out classes at different universities around my city but none of them gave me any interest, there are many things to study here but since I don’t know what I want to work as or even study back home it made it even harder to find something here. Also, I came here to get the full experience and the APIA class teach me more about American culture but also, I will be able to share my own.

Tell us about any traveling you have done or are planning to do:
So far, I have of course been to New York, I am planning on going back there sometime soon. But I have also been to Indianapolis, which was my first ever real road trip here, and I have been to Dayton which is a city here in Ohio. A couple of weekends ago I went to a state park, Hocking Hills, with a bunch of au pairs and it was amazing. We went hiking for 9 hours in total, during a two days trip, and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I am not much of an outdoor person, but this was something new, something exciting and something I will do again. In a couple of days, I am going to Florida with my host parents, I am really (REALLY) excited! As come to future travels, I have a bucketlist of every state.

What have you gained during the year?
So far, I have only been here a couple of weeks and you would think I haven’t learnt that much but the truth be told, I have learnt more about myself then I have done during my last 20 years on this earth. I have learnt that being responsible for a kid isn’t as easy as it seems, you worry, and you feel pain when they do. I have learnt to control myself in certain situations and not get too in-my-head about things. I have learnt that I can, if I want to, change my lifestyle and do things I never thought was possible. I can´t wait for what this year has in store, especially since I have only in two months’ time realised so much about myself.

What has been the best experience so far?
How can I choose? My new friends, my host family, my travels, my newfound independence and responsibility or finding my self-worth. I can´t choose. It has been hard, I miss home and I miss my family and friends but that is also what makes me work even harder. I want to experience a lot here and I want to ad onto the list above of ”the best experience”. I want to, after the end of this year, know that I not only met a ton of new friends or went through my bucketlist of places to visit but that I also learnt something new on the way.

How have you been spending you pocket money?
You get me nervous with that question. In the first month you are here, you will be spending a lot – too much – on shopping, Starbucks, decoration for your room etc. So I will give you a tip, DON´T !! Try and resist, try and save. You want to save money so that you can do amazing trips and visit incredible places. That is what I from now on are spending my money on – before now is another story.

What do/did you find most challenging about being an au pair?
My family. I miss them. Some days you will want to go home, holidays will be difficult and don’t get me started on birthdays, but you will get through it – day by day. Especially since you will make a second home here with your host family.

Write a short message to others thinking about joining Skandinaviska Institutet / Au Pair in America:
DO IT – as simple as that! Don’t second guess it, try it out and see what happens. You will learn so much here and it is a nice way of figuring out what you want to do in life, if you don’t already know. Even if you do know it is still an incredible experience that will teach you things about yourself that you never even knew.